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Bennet Sits Down With CBS4 On Education Reform

DENVER (CBS4) – Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet says he will play a key role in the education reform effort mentioned by President Obama in his State of the Union address. He has an interesting perspective as a former superintendent and he sat down to talk about it with CBS4 political specialist Shaun Boyd.

Bennet has been on the receiving end of unfunded mandates and unnecessary red tape. He told Boyd he will take a completely different approach to reform. While it’s known education ebbs and flows as a priority in America, this year it may well be the one issue that holds the most promise for compromise.

At Force Elementary in Denver Bennet was in his element, and he’ll say it’s light years from the world he lives in most days.

“There is no place on planet farther away from where you and I are sitting right now than Capitol Hill,” Bennet told Boyd. “And there are days I want to beat my head against wall because of that.”

Bennet promises he will turn education reform upside down this year. And he has maybe an unlikely ally — Republican Sen. Lamar Alexandar, who was education secretary during the first Bush presidency.

“We agree on 96.5 percent of everything and rest is details,” Bennet said.

Bennet says their focus is on teachers — recruiting and retaining the best and brightest.

He’ll introduce a bill to support residency programs.

“Where teachers instead of spending time on college campus, (they) are actually spending time in a classroom with a master teacher learning how to teach.”

He’ll push for changes in the pay structure.

“Based on outcomes for kids; based on how hard their assignment is; based on whether or not they’re bringing a special set of skills in short supply like teaching math and science.”

And to keep good teachers he will write a bill that supports good principals and demands better training.

“It’s easy for people in Washington to say, ‘Okay, we’re going to turn around the bottom 5 percent of schools.’ But if you don’t have human capacity to actually do that, we’re going to fail.”

He said one young student told him she liked her new school, not because of better playgrounds, but because her new school taught her math facts.

“It’s about fulfilling the promise that this country really is the land of opportunity and the zip code you’re born into isn’t going to define the quality of the education we get and we have a lot of work to do to make it better.”

In addition to equity in teaching, Bennet will also introduce a bill to create equity in funding. The Fiscal Fairness Act will require districts to make sure resources are spread fairly among all schools.

  • Norm

    Some master teachers are good but too many have teaching degrees and can’t explain subjects in sufficient depth to make any appreciable difference. This is underscored by yesterday’s NAEP report where half the students are really not learning any science.

    It would be far better if teachers and students were to interact with seasoned technicians, engineers and scientists who have been through “the school of hard knocks” and have contributed in research and development over the years. Their insights are much deeper and this would not only help young people innovate later on, it would improve the current graduation rates in colleges and universities.

    • Mark Schmidt Sr.

      I believe you are correct. The real world has much to offer. That’s why teachers use experiential learning precepts involving community practitioners (from the school of hard-knocks) to stimulate the children, provide role models, and experience the effects and results of the concepts presented in the classroom giving contextual support and value to their items covered in school. Experience is the best teacher. Efforts by students to “practice” create opportunities to succeed and fail (fall off the bike) both of which are valuable. Force uses experience to great benefit not only for the student but for the community at large. Most grade and high school teachers are not “Master” teachers. They were born and raised and inspired to teach the lessons in context of the subject, their experience, and the wisdom of past and present practice. Several teachers at Force have MA or MS degrees which enhances there understanding and their abilities to communicate effectively. Force is a school with a mixed audience. It takes a flexibility and resilient staff to succeed. A professorial teaching approach would most probably fail at Force and at most DPS K-12 institutions. The success at Force and several DPS schools are strong evidence of lessons learned by DPS in recent years and the perseverance of individual teachers in schools like Force

  • Debbie Ellis

    Thank you for coming to Force Elementary and getting feedback on how our school is performing. I appreciated the opportunity to be on the panel at Force with you, however time expired before I could share my concerns for educating the whole child. Being the Physical Educator at Force for 19 years, I share the same concerns Michele Obama does regarding the widespread increase in childhood obesity. National studies have shown that a healthier body leads to a healthier mind and more creative students who perform better in the classroom. Force has an extensive physical education program, considering the limited contact time we have with students. Please remember we should not leave any child on their behind.

  • Clinton Williams Jr.

    I believe students should have physical education (P.E.) everyday for at least 30 minutes, instead of the limitted schedules they have now where they may have physical education five days in one week and nothing to do with P.E. for two weeks then P.E. again for one week. Kids need to have movement & play everyday. Many of us adults did when we were kids and there was no childhood obesity crisis then! I’ve been a physical educator for 11 yrs.

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